It lasted only seven innings and it took four pitchers, but it still goes into Western Kentucky’s record book as a no-hitter.
Craig Stem, Tyler Gilliland, Harry Stubel and Aaron Mayfield, a LaRue County High School graduate, combined to throw seven hitless innings March 31 as the Hilltoppers clobbered Kentucky Wesleyan 15-0 in a game shortened by a 10-run mercy rule at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green.
There was a bit of an anticlimactic nature to the no-hitter. WKU combined for seven walks, and the thought of a no-hitter didn’t even strike Mayfield when he took the mound for the seventh inning.
“At first when I went out there, I really wasn’t aware it was a no-hitter,” Mayfield said. “It didn’t really affect me. I just threw.”
After falling behind Lincoln Talley to open the seventh inning, Mayfield induced a groundout, then struck out Scott Redding and Alex LaGreca to record the no-hitter. While it didn’t end with a wild celebration, it was an achievement for three freshmen and one sophomore pitcher.
“They had some fun with it,” WKU coach Chris Finwood said. “Some of them probably didn’t actually know, the way kids are today. You don’t talk about it, certainly. I made the joke that are we going to make an error first or give up a hit first with all the young guys playing (in the lineup)?”
Neither, as it turns out.
WKU took advantage of the meeting against the NCAA Division II foe to get playing time for its younger Hilltoppers. Stem, making only his second appearance as a freshman, started and threw two innings while giving up four walks and recording four strikeouts.
Gilliland threw three hitless innings while walking two and striking out one.
Sophomore Harry Stubel struck out the side in the sixth before giving way to Mayfield.
“We were able to play everybody and rest some guys and it was a good day because we got what we wanted to get out of it - see some of those young guys pitch,” Finwood said.
Because the younger pitchers don’t get much mound time yet, control can be an issue.
“Baseball is such a rhythm game and pitching is certainly no exception,” Finwood said. “When you’re not getting to pitch, it’s hard to get in a rhythm. Obviously (there were) the walks, but I thought for the most part the guys did a good job.”
Finwood said the younger pitchers can contribute later in the year.
“Craig Stem, he’s just got tremendous stuff and we’ve just got to run him out there enough so he develops command,” Finwood said. “He’s a guy we’re hoping second part of the season can give us some meaningful innings. There’s no question he’s got good enough stuff to win at this level.”
With the exception of trying to keep a no-hitter, WKU pitchers didn’t throw under much pressure Tuesday. The Hilltoppers built a 5-0 lead after the first inning as Wade Gaynor and Kes Carter each hit two-run doubles and Casey Dykes had a sacrifice fly.
The Hilltoppers then chased Kentucky Wesleyan starting pitcher Michael Ruby in the second when Matt Rice hit an RBI double and extended his hitting streak to 21 games.
Reprinted with permission from The Daily News in Bowling Green.
(Editor’s note: Mayfield broke the high school state record by pitching consecutive no-hitters last spring as a senior at LCHS.)